5G's low latency will allow vehicles to transmit braking or directional information to each other

Scania testing 5G networks for autonomous truck platoons

5G networks are being tested by heavy vehicle manufacturer Scania who believe the technology will help bring about the advent of autonomous truck platooning.

Scania is working with technology company Ericsson on the new system which has resulted in the construction of three state-of-the-art mobile base stations at Scania’s R&D facility.

The 5G test network has been designed to be continuously updated with new technology as it is developed.

The technology will feature prominently in trials of autonomous driving and connected vehicles.

“The new test network with its 5G components allows for a high quality mobile network service, with low-latency and high bandwidth, where a lot of complex data can be transferred very quickly and very reliably – providing us with a ‘priority communications lane’ when it comes to projects such as autonomous driving and platooning,” explained Anders Ställberg, Scania’s Project Manager for City Automation.

Having a ‘priority lane’ has sometimes been an issue in crowded pre-5G networks, where users have to jostle for space with those who are streaming films, music or games, for example.

5G will support many more instances of use than 4G networks, particularly in communication between machines.

The low latency in 5G connections means that the new technology could be used by vehicles transmitting braking or directional information to each other, where speed and reliability are vital.

It could also be used to help improve the reliability and speed of the exchange of information between the two or more vehicles in a truck platoon. Where previously WLAN technology has been used, the 5G technology, with its guaranteed level of latency and bandwidth, could offer an alternative.

The new networks could also allow self-driving vehicles to continuously update a map for autonomous driving, stored on a central server, for distribution to other vehicles in the system.

“It allows Scania to further develop the capabilities underpinning our ongoing projects, while Ericsson fulfils its desire to test its new technology in a working, practical environment,” Ställberg said about the project.

Torbjörn Lundahl, Programme Director for the 5G National Research Programme at Ericsson Research, said: “We want to show other companies how 5G can enable and support the digital transformation of their industry.

“We hope to gain valuable insights and innovations that will pave the way for further digitalisation, using 5G as an enabler.

“The trials with Scania will help us to understand the requirements to ensure they are met by the 5G standard and products, and deepen our experience with the transportation sector which is a focus industry for Ericsson.”

Truck platooning, where the front vehicle leads a long line of driverless trucks, is touted as a game-changer for transporting goods long-distance as it increases fuel efficiency and reduces the number of drivers.

A two-carriage platoon of driverless trucks drove from Rotterdam from Belgium in April as part of a challenge to demonstrate the viability of automated freight transport.

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